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Mission Control
Answers Your Questions

From: Bernardo A. Mainou, of Tempe Arizona
To: Wayne Hale, lead flight director


Question: What is the speed range for the shuttle during re-entry? Also, how does the shuttle slow down if it has nothing to push against?

Answer: The shuttle is orbiting at 17,500 mph. If you remember your high school physics, you know that all that kinetic energy had to come from the rocket engines at launch. At the end of the flight, the shuttle is stopped on a runway and all that kinetic energy had to go somewhere. The answer is friction with the atmosphere. The shuttle pushes against the atmosphere and heats up to over 2,000 deg F.


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Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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